Search This Site

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

Review- The Ingenius Series | Any Day Now (Manhattan Theatre Source)

The Fab Marquee review by Dianna Martin.

Take your typical dysfunctional family. Add in alcoholic husbands, an increasingly senile mother, stoners, cutthroat sibling rivalry, and college students getting kicked out of school. That alone would make for a possible interesting night of theatre.

Now add the living dead. Totally straight-faced drama - as a complete "what if?". That is where The Writer's Forum Ingenius Series Any Day Now goes from being just an entertaining evening of theatre to...well, something GENIUS. Because you're being thrown for a loop from the moment the lights come up...and are entertained for all three acts.

Pen Colby (Waltrudis Buck) is trying to make chicken salad as she says to her husband, Adam (Anthony Spaldo) who is sitting quietly in a chair, "What are we going to do with you?". The man is obviously suffering from something...perhaps Alzheimer's. When adult daughter Beverly (Paige Allen) comes by, we suddenly discover that Adam was buried a week ago - although he is now up and sitting in a chair, albeit non-responsive - and that there are a series of occurrences similar to his happening all over the world.

As the play progresses we find that these living dead are not like the "zombies" that you see in the movies (one character teases the others at one point because "...nobody wants to use the 'Z' word."). They are not out for flesh...or brains. They aren't violent. They are just passive moving figures...very much like people struck with catatonia...except that they are very cold...and their bodies begin to decompose.

Sister Beverly is very concerned and frightened - and wants to use disposal of these living dead as a platform for her city/state political agenda; now if only her husband and daughter can keep up. Her sister April (Elyse Mirto) is just trying to deal with the fact that her marriage to Josh (Arthur Aulisi) is in the dumps, her dead father is up and walking around, her mother is slowly falling into senility, and her sister is backstabbing everyone who doesn't agree with her - including her family.

I found this to be a great play for a myriad of reasons, but let me just say that it took one of my favorite comfort film mediums, horror, and turned it into a drama; one that is full of laughs in the right spots, but the laughs are about the family trying to come to terms with what is happening - not because the play is cheesy at all. On the contrary, playwright/director Nat Cassidy did wonderful job taking this very seriously - and putting the basic premise that should be behind any play or film - "what if?" and making it a reality. What if the dead got up and walked on a regular day, while all this other stuff is going on in your life? What would happen? That's all this play asks - and it then delivers...with a surprising ending that holds the audience in the palm of its hand.

One of the other things that made this exceptional was that most of the cast was fantastic - with exceptional work by Mirto and Aulisi. Their delivery of both the dramatic and comedic was very entertaining, and performances like this are what helps keep the audience fascinated for three hours.

That's not to say that the show is without problems. I had issues with Beverly's husband David and daughter Jaqueline (Tim Ewing and Anna O'Donoghue, respectively). I felt that Ewing was too busy playing a henpecked and taken-for-granted husband to really deal with his fellow actors; and O'Donoghue's desire to jump onto furniture all around the room or bang on furniture while she did so became tedious very quickly and took away from her performance. I also, while delighted about the play's subject matter, was appalled at some of the video sequences they had during the show. In an attempt to show "news footage" of the apparent zombie epidemic, a few of the scenes were not well-done; the make-up on the "zombies" was awful and it nearly set the tone to "cheese factor" -- for those out in the audience not willing to go on the ride. Enough of the play had already been established to avoid that for most people, but my opinion is, if you have a good thing - don't spoil it with cheap effects. Stick to the basics and you'll come out great. Fortunately, those few moments were paltry in comparison to the rest of the play.

As the show ended, and I stood up, satisfied as one is after a really good performance, I joked to my friend, "This is like Sam Sheppard meets George Romero." And you know what? That's actually an accurate description...with more emphasis on the former artist than the latter.

Manhattan Theatre Source
The Ingenius Series
January 6-February 7, 2009

For more information, visit

Manhattan Theatre Source | 177 MacDougal Street | Manhattan.

No comments: